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South Ossetia (Georgia)

Last modified: 2006-10-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: south ossetia | ossetia | snow lion | secessionist | coat of arms: south ossetia |
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[South Ossetian flag]

Flag of South Ossetia - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 September 2006

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Presentation of South Ossetia

Status: Self-proclaimed independence from Georgia, which whom conflict continues.

Despite their loyalty to the Soviet state, Communist divide-and-rule policies dictated the division of Ossetians lands into two regions. A North Ossetian Autonomous Region was created in 1924, two years after a South Ossetian Autonomous Region. To further complicate matters (as it was surely intended to), North Ossetia was part of Russia and South Ossetia part of Georgia.
This ethnic time-bomb duly exploded when Georgia became a separate state. Ossetians in South Ossetia, desiring union with their kinsmen in the north, declared their republic a part of Russia rather than Georgia in 1989. A year later (Georgia having abolished the autonomous status of the region) South Ossetia declared independence and armed conflict, which has still not been resolved, erupted.
The Ossetians are said to be descendents of the Sarmatians, a Central Asiatic people who migrated westwards into the region in the VIIth century BC.

Stuart Notholt, 5 October1995

The historical homeland of Ossetian people is and can be only so called North Ossetia or simply Ossetia (local name Alania). There are almost inaccessible mountains on its south (higher than Mont Blanc) and it is quite impossible for a people to form on both slopes of such range.
Only about a few centuries ago, some tribes of Ossetians, pursued by their stronger Muslim neighbours, began to move through Caucasus range, looking for a safer place.
Historically, there has never been some Ossetian state. The territory of present-day South Ossetia always belonged to Georgia and in many conquests always shared the fate of neighbouring Georgian territories. Before Bolshevik revolution in Russia nobody used the term "South Ossetia" and it was always regarded as part of Kartli, one of main historical regions of Georgia. However, the Georgian population in that hostile mountain territory was sparse, so Ossetians who had no choice became the majority there during the XIXth and XXth centuries. This was the reason to proclame first an autonomous region and then, after the collapse of USSR, a republic.
But, in any case, it was not some kind of deliberate decision "intended to complicate matters" and create inter-ethnic tensions or example of "divide-and-rule policies" simply because there was nothing to divide.

Alexander Morozov, 6 May 1999

Flag of South Ossetia

The flag of South Ossetia has similar colours to North Ossetian, but different proportions. Red is said to stand for military virtue; white for intelligence and the spiritual life of the nation; and yellow for the well-being of the people.

Stuart Notholt, 5 October 1995

The flag was prescribed by the Constitution of 26 November 1990 (Article 155) and confirmed by the Regulation on the National Flag of 30 March 1992.
According to Article 1 of this Regulation, the ratio of the flag is 1:2.

Victor Lomantsov & Antonio Gutierrez, 30 November 2005

There's a series of programmes on BBC TV called Holidays in the Danger Zone, where our intrepid reporter goes to places which don't officially exist and wanders around with a camera crew until he is expelled or arrested. Recently, the programme on South Ossetia was shown, and there was a shot of the flag. The flag - flying over an unspecified government building - is clearly longer than higher, perhaps 1:2.

André Coutanche, 1 June 2005

Coat of arms of South Ossetia

[Arms of South Ossetia]

Coat of arms of South Ossetia - Image by Nozomi Kariyasu & Ivan Sache, 13 July 2004

Click on the arms to see a larger image.

On a red round escutcheon a golden snow leopard with black spots, walking on a golden ground, behind it seven silver mountains. A white border, black ornaments around all, inwards black marginal inscriptions "Republic of South Ossetia" in Cyrillic letters РЕСПУБЛИКА ЮЖНАЯ ОСЕТИЯ (Russian, top) and РЕСПУБЛИКӔ ХУССАР ИРБІСТОН (Ossetian, beneath), between the two inscriptions a round emblem consisting of three segments in the colours silver, yellow and red (counterclockwise). The inscriptions and the ornament are separated by a thin circle.

Source: Folder "State symbols of the Republic South Ossetia" issued by the Government of the Republic South Ossetia on 19 May 1999 - German version forwarded by Nozomi Kariyasu and translated by Marcus Schmöger, 13 July 2002

The coat of arms is identical, except the inscription, to the one of North Ossetia.
It was designed by the Georgian scientist Prince Vakhushti Bagrationi in 1735. Its original copy is held in the Georgian Manuscripts Collection in Tbilisi.

David Gigauri, 13 July 2004

The former arms of the independent government of South Ossetia headed by President Ludvig Chibirov are shown on Soslan Tabuev's website, with the following description:

  • The eagle stands for generosity, bravity and freedom. In the talons and on the wings of the eagle one can see:
    • the Wasamonga cup
    • a pole ax
    • an oak branch
    • hop and ears of wheat

    According to the ancient Ossetic myths (Nartian epos) all those things were given by God to the Narts, the legendary forefathers of the Ossetians since ancient times.
    Hop is a symbol of finding the eternity.
    Ears of wheat stand for peace and prosperity.

    The word Wasamonga translates from Ossetic as "Teaching the holy". In the Nartian epos (Narty Kadgita) the Wasamonga cup proclaimed truth and exposed lies. The cup (for every Ossete) is the symbol of Justice and Equality of all before the laws of morality.

  • The swastika on the chest of the eagle signifies eternal life, endless moves and changes. Being the symbol of the Sun, it has three ends - the Trinity is the main principle of most religions --it signifies Father-Son-Holy Spirit,the God-Man-Nature, Soul-Body-Spirit, Past-Present-Future.
  • The colors are:
    • white for wisdom
    • red for power and energy
    • yellow for abundance

    These colors are the national colors of Ossetia and are on the flag of both South and North parts of the land.

Chris Kretowicz, 27 March 2001

"Banner of the Republic"

[South Ossetian banner]

"Banner of the Republic" of South Ossetia - Image by Victor Lomantsov, 9 October 2004

The World on BBC4 TV tonight (6 August 2004) had a piece about the situation in South Ossetia.
The more interesting vexillological information came in an interview with South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoiti. Behind him was a flag bearing the national coat of arms; presumably this is the presidential flag.
The coat of arms on the flag is very similar to the image shown above, but there are some differences: the "divider" between the names of the republic in the two languages (Ossetian and Russian) looks a lot like a Breton triskell and doesn't have the coloured infills which we show; more significantly, the Russian inscription is at the bottom rather than the top. There is also something odd about the disposition of the two colours visible on the flag - they appear to meet at the С of РЕСПУБЛИКА, which is on neither the vertical nor horizontal axis of the coat of arms.

André Coutanche, 6 August 2004

The flag manufacturer October labels the flag the "banner of the Republic".

Victor Lomantsov, 9 October 2004

National Guard of South Ossetia

[Flag of the National Guard]

Flag of the National Guard - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 March 2002

The national flag with a white snow lion in the red stripe was unofficially used by the National Guard.

Victor Lomantsov, 7 March 2002

This flag appears in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #111, with the following caption:

North Caucasus, Georgia

Ivan Sache, 15 September 1999